Former Student Advice: Commercial Diving Skills
In last week’s blog post, commercial diver Mikey McManus shared his thoughts on how best to get started in a diving career. In this post he talks about the skills he gained from his military background and the training received at The Underwater Centre, and how they contributed to his commercial diving career.
Tell us about your working life before training as a commercial diver
“I have had a varied and colourful working life, so my life experience is quite handy, however I have the luxury of being ex-military who went on to become a teacher. I spent 12 years in the Army spanning the Royal Artillery to the Parachute Regiment; when I retired I got my degree and became a teacher. Since moving to the West Coast of Scotland, neither of these skills were paying out, so a career change was needed to make where I lived more accessible to employment for me.”
“Having a military background makes the dive industry easier for me, as the format is the same; small teams operating on one job, with everyone bringing their abilities and characters to the forefront of the job, having to get on and be able operate effectively on your own but part of the wider team, making sure everyone is on the same page. There are many transferrable skills in this industry and every new colleague you work with will have a varied background, but that’s where networking comes in again as it is these veterans of the industry who will mould you in to the diver you become. I may be 40, but I’m learning from guys half my age and I take the stick that comes with it (as well as the nick names and the daily, friendly abuse) but I was prepared for that and happy with this, as I know the lads I work with get something from having me there too, and that is what makes an effective team.”
Did you find the advice and support of the instructors helpful?
“It’s all valuable; you have instructors from all over the industry with their own experiences and abilities, quirks, tips, personalities. It helps you realise the situation of both inshore and offshore life, how they have adapted to it, problems and how they overcame them, who taught them, teams they learned from; it all ties together to help you get the full potential of the industry, but it’s all on you as the diver to make it work. These guys can give you the tickets and the advice, but only you can make it work. Being local, I’ve been back to the school and spoke with ALL of my instructors, laughing (now) about certain situations and how I reacted or applied techniques to the job at hand and it’s only because of the industry time I have gained, I can see what they meant by it all. They like the feedback, not because they knew they were right but because the penny has dropped for you and they were once in the very same place, so they know and clearly happy that the instruction has helped to further your new career change. There’s also the fact that some of these guys still have very real and current contacts within the industry; so work is available if you’re willing to be that guy or girl and take on board what they are telling you.”
Do you feel that having spent time in the various tasks to support a diver (such as tending, logging, etc) increased your employability?
“I wouldn’t say it means you’re more employable because you have done those tasks, but it certainly helps you understand what is required of you on any job site. Paperwork and the like is, sometimes, just as important as the actual task that you are on site to do and as long as you follow the guidelines set out by the client and the company you are working for, it does make life a lot easier and safer for everyone. Knowing how to tend a diver in the water is pretty important and you are an additional standby to fill any task required of you if things go sideways, which is the same as data entry; whether it’s filling out dive times and dive tables or just writing a report on what work has been carried out, is ALL valid. Having the school set up as a work site is very important and gives you the first look at a dive team on site and what is required of them, which means you are more employable because you know what is required of you.”
Do you think that the underwater tools and skills you gained at The Underwater Centre increased your chances of finding employment?
“Definitely. There is a lot to be said about having the right information in your head and, while various companies inevitably do things their own way, it is all based on the ONE way people have been taught. I was lucky that what I did over 3 months at the Centre I got to do on a job, whether it be surface demand or scuba, broco cutting or underwater welding, fixing a flange, working from a basket, drilling, cutting – the total school syllabus was applied in a working context, so it gave me an opportunity to see WHY things are done the way they are. Protocols, paperwork, rules, regulations, kit checks etc all there for your safety and ease of work and it’s quite clichéd to say it, but what you learn is how it is and that is just the basics. When your career goes further, you’ll learn new skills, ways of doing things, ways that certain companies prefer things, but they are based on a foundation of core skills that will be built on.”